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Crafting Your Career (CYC) | 15 Crafting a PAR’ful Resume copy

Lakshmi Ganesan

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In this episode, Lakshmi, Shreya and Smita chat about the most critical marketing tools for the job hunt - the resume / CV. Find out from this podcast: Are resumes and CV one and the same?, What goes into each? Where are they used?, How to dissect a job ad and identify key attributes that an employer is looking for?, What is the PAR / STAR approach?, How to pack a resume / CV with impactful “PAR” statements that can make you stand out?

Note to listeners: This recording was done during the COVID-19 lockdown over a zoom meeting call. This has resulted in a slightly diminished audio quality with some mild disturbances in the recording, compared to a studio quality recording.

Transcript with Timestamps

Lakshmi Ganesan 0:01
You’re listening to IndiaBiospeaks, your one-stop resource for science news and careers

Welcome listeners to our next segment of “Crafting your Career” in science. I am Lakshmi and I am your host for this episode. In this episode, we want to talk about a few critical aspects of being “marketable” in the job market and tooling up for a job interview. One of the most critical tools, as you know, is to get a really good resume / CV prepared for the job hunt. To dive into an in-depth discussion on these, and maybe share a tip or two that we picked up along the way, joining me are my colleagues, Smita and Shreya. Welcome, both.

Shreya Ghosh 0:46
Hi, Lakshmi. It's good to be back.

Smita Jain 0:49
Thanks Lakshmi, I am looking forward to this chat

Lakshmi Ganesan 0:51
Both the resume and CV are marketing tools that help highlight your skills, talents and experiences that make you an excellent fit for the position, which you are applying for. To begin with, there are two common misconceptions about CVs and resumes that we would like to clear. The resume and CV are not one and the same, and cannot be used interchangeably. While a CV is typically used in an academic setting, in most other cases a resume is generally requested. We will discuss more about each (how they are made, where they are used etc) as we go along. The purpose of both a CV and a resume is not to get you a job, but to get you an interview

Smita Jain 1:53
That's well said. CV and a résumé indeed cannot be used interchangeably.It is also important to keep in mind to tailor one’s CV / resume rather than send out one common document to everyone and for every job, in which case, chances of rejection become extremely high. Based on the job that one is applying for, one needs to tailor these to match the requirements spelled in the job ad.

Lakshmi Ganesan 2:33
That’s right, so before we dwell on what makes a great resume / CV, I think it would be worthwhile to talk a little about how to dissect a job ad and tease out the key attributes that an employer is looking for. Shreya, what are your thoughts on this?

Shreya Ghosh 2:55
So Lakshmi, I think it is a great idea to invest some time at the very beginning to figure out what exactly the employer is looking for and use this to customize your application according to the employer’s requirements. Perhaps, an easy way to do this is by copying a text-heavy ad onto a word processor, and highlighting some key attributes that the employer seems to be looking for. Once you have identified these, you could rewrite them in simpler terms and make a list of keywords. For example, let’s say the employer is looking for certain technical skills, or someone who’s a team-player, who has good communication skills, flexibility, leadership, time-management etc…Once you do this exercise, you may find that you actually have experience to showcase for each of these attributes, from which you can choose to highlight the most relevant ones.

Smita Jain 4:01
Well, while dissecting a job ad is a useful exercise, I think we should also keep in mind that not all information can be obtained just from the advertisement which is in the public domain, and hence available to all applicants. Good networking skills can get you access to relevant and reliable private information on specifics that an employer is looking for in a candidate. This could be details regarding the project involved that are not explicit in the job ad, the nature of the team, the work culture, all of which can help you craft your application that is more tailor-made and hence stand out.

Shreya Ghosh 4:56
True

Lakshmi Ganesan 4:56
That's that's very true Smita. Having learned the requirements through two important sources of information, (1) the job ad and (2) through networking skills, one then needs to make a good case for oneself. In doing so, I really like the “PAR” or the “STAR” approach, which is both widely acknowledged and very effective. Have you heard of this?

Shreya Ghosh 5:24
Yes.

Smita Jain 5:28
Great, why don’t you elaborate, Shreya

Shreya Ghosh 5:34
okay, “PAR” is an acronym for “Problem, Action and Result”. You may have also heard of STAR, which is pretty similar. It is “Situations, Tasks, Action and Result”. So, for every key attribute that you identified earlier, you will jog through your memory and maybe pull out your old reports and think of a problem or a situation or a task. Then, you need to think of three things. What was the problem that allowed you to demonstrate the attribute (the P) ? What action did you take to address the problem (the A)? What were the results from those actions and what were the benefits (R)? This is the PAR analysis. Once you have done this, you can use action verbs to generate concise PAR statements.

Smita Jain 6:40
That's an excellent way of going about it. Lakshmi, can you give some examples of these action verbs? How would you use them in a PAR statement?

Lakshmi Ganesan 6:54
Sure, Smita. Examples for action verbs include solved, adapted, developed, clarified, organized, guided, mentored, designed, approved, coached, planned etc… It can be very impactful to begin PAR statements with these action verbs and in doing so, we should look to emphasize accomplishment, rather than efforts. For example, “identified” which indicates an accomplishment, is better than “investigated” which indicates effort. So, an example of a PAR statement would be “Strategized using google analytics data from websites administered, resulting in 50% increase in audience engagement”.

Shreya Ghosh 7:40
Absolutely. If you can quantify your results in the PAR statement, the more impactful it becomes.

Smita Jain 7:50
Lakshmi, and Shreya. This is great, but it would also be good to talk about it’s usage in a resume / CV.

Lakshmi Ganesan 8:05
Thats is a good point Smita, when building sections in a resume or a CV, it would be great to add these PAR statements as bulleted entries

Shreya Ghosh 8:22
Yeah. That's a great idea, and we will share a good way to do this, a bit.

Smita Jain 8:33
Now that we have talked about dissecting a job ad and identifying key attributes sought by an employer and composing PAR statements for each of these attributes, let’s come back to resumes and CVs. How do they differ? Where are they used? What goes into a CV and a resume? Is there a good way to systematize preparing tailor-made CVs and resumes while job hunting? Lets begin with the difference between a resume and a CV. Any guesses?

Shreya Ghosh 9:14
Sure, Smita. While a CV is a document that details your academic and work history, a resume is a snapshot of what you have to offer to an organisation or company.

Smita Jain 9:28
Good and where do you think each is useful?

Lakshmi Ganesan 9:32
Smita, the CV is generally useful when one is seeking a job in an academic or research community. A resume, on the other hand is a targeted marketing tool that is specific to the job one is applying to, it’s more compact with a greater focus on work experience.

Smita Jain 10:01
That is correct! A CV is also continuously evolving and can be virtually unlimited, but should remain focused. A resume is typically 1-2 pages. As a rule of thumb, one can add an additional page for every 7 years of experience! As you rightly stated, a CV is typically used when applying for faculty positions / research-intensive positions / fellowships / grants or awards. For everything else, unless specifically requested, one should use a resume!

Shreya Ghosh 10:41
Also, while both a CV and resume are timeline documents, a CV can be chronological or reverse chronological, but a resume is always reverse chronological, highlighting the latest achievement first.

That is a good point, Shreya!

Smita Jain 11:04
What do you think should go into a resume, Lakshmi?

Lakshmi Ganesan 11:10
Smita, In addition to the standard sections such as contact information, education, and work experience, one can include other sections that are relevant and name them responsive to the keywords gleaned from the job description. One may also include volunteer experiences, if they can support the application. Typical sections in a resume include: Summary of qualifications Professional Profile Industry-specific information Selected publications / patents Service / Leadership experiences Professional affiliations / associations Honors and Awards Selected presentations Voluntary activities Skills (Technical, language skills) Relevant trainings and certifications While it is not necessary to include ALL of these, it would help to include ones which make most sense to the position one is applying to. Each of these sections can be populated with the PAR statement that we discussed earlier, as bulleted entries to highlight relevant experience and accomplishments. That now should make a PAR-packed resume!

Smita Jain 12:43
Excellent! Now what about CVs?

Shreya Ghosh 12:48
Smita, in addition to the required categories, which Lakshmi mentioned like contact information, education, and work experience, a CV can include an exhaustive list of your achievements, which you typically wouldn’t include in every resume. Some examples are: grants funded, clinical certifications teaching / mentoring positions, service / leadership activities, professional affiliations / associations Invited presentations / seminars, poster presentations, patents, complete list of publications

Lakshmi Ganesan 13:33
Thanks Shreya, I learnt a very neat and an efficient system to have in place while applying for jobs, which I would like to share. This is to prepare what is called a MASTER résumé, which is an exhaustive list of categories, populated with pre-crafted PAR statements as bulleted entries. From this MASTER résumé, one may derive several TARGETED résumés that are tailor-made, and responsive to the job ad. Yet another idea is to have a SMART résumé, or a business card style résumé, that has your contact information in the front and a short link / QR code to a generally targeted résumé at the back, along with any online profiles or portfolios that you may have. You may use this to hand over during networking events and social mixers that you may attend to share with potential job leads that you will encounter.

Shreya Ghosh 15:07
That sounds neat, Lakshmi. Listeners, in the description section of this podcast, you will find some worksheets that you can use to dissect the job ad, compose PAR statements, and an example of a master, targeted and a smart resume. Do check them out, and feel free to use them as needed and let us know how you used them.

Lakshmi Ganesan 15:34
Also, we would like to reiterate that our intent is not to present to you a model resume or a CV or share any templates, but to inspire you to come up with your own style, while following some basic accepted standards and work around these to make the best case for yourselves. We have also attached a link to NIH’s guide for resumes and CVs which we think you might find very useful.

Smita Jain 16:03
Also do check out our in-house publication Disha, a career resource book by Suman Govil for life science and biotech students, which also has a lot of information we are sure that you will find useful. You will find a link to this in the description section of this podcast as well. Let us know your comments and feedback and any suggestions or ideas that you may have on what we can talk about. Do stay tuned to more episodes in the future on professional networking, interviewing skills, professionalism and much, much more...

Lakshmi Ganesan 16:57
Thank you all for listening and thanks Shreya and Smita for a fun-filled and resourceful chat. We hope to see you next time. Until then keep listening and subscribe to your season, on “Crafting your Career” in science.

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